By Dan Bernstein–
CBSChicago.com senior columnist
(CBS) A Chicago pro sports team is allowed to get it right, even if it comes after its own struggles and those of others.
Nobody knows what happened between Cubs shortstop Addison Russell and his now-estranged wife, only that a friend of the family alleged domestic abuse in no uncertain terms via social media. Russell has denied the claim, and the team turned the matter over to MLB for further investigation.
After their own difficulties managing communication upon trading for Aroldis Chapman last July, the Cubs have apparently learned from that experience in a way that informed a careful and nuanced response that took no sides in the matter, made no presumptions and avoided the all-too-common sports mistake of circling the wagons around a besieged teammate. This was a far cry from the Blackhawks’ tone-deaf press conference after the Patrick Kane rape allegations and the Bears’ ham-handed bungling of the Ray McDonald signing.
They took most of a Thursday to release a short statement after the allegation surfaced late Wednesday, but the Cubs didn’t hide. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon met the full media contingent, general manager Jed Hoyer joined the Bernstein and Goff Show for an extended and detailed interview and star third baseman Kris Bryant was allowed to make his scheduled appearance on the show and handled questions about Russell deftly. Other players did the same in regular open locker room.
What comes next is critical, because the decision was made to keep Russell away from the team on a day-to-day basis until more information becomes available. It’s not fair to make the team can’t play a man down for long, and a roster move could be necessitated.
Fairness marked the initial reaction by the Cubs to a troubling situation, one that will continue to need mindful management that understands not just how the words and optics affect the team but all parties involved and those paying close attention.